My name is Mark, and I am a cyclist. In fact, sometimes I am a frequent cyclist. Other times, I am an occasional cyclist. Apart from being a cyclist, I only use the roads for walking (when it is safe), and when I am a passenger in a car or public transport. I do not drive.
Anyways, if you are a cyclist, I’m sure you have engaged in a feud with motorists. Sometimes it almost seems as though drivers hate us with a passion. Their demands range from wanting us to get off the road, ride on the pavement, or even pay our share of road tax. What I urge you to do is not to engage in a war of words with them. You are a civilised person – at least I hope you are. And if a few drivers want to have a cry about road entitlement, let them do so – it is their democratic right.
However, this rant is not about drivers being petty crybabies, because we already know that some of them are. Instead, it is about you! More specifically, it is about how you can contribute to a safe riding environment. It is about how you can play your part in not contributing to the negative stereotypes perpetuated by our inconsiderate black-sheep bike-riding brethren.
One of the first thing you have to recognise is that a lot of hatred towards cyclists are aimed at one particular class, or “subspecie” of riders – the lycra-clad brigade on road bikes that ride in packs. And fair enough, because truth be told, these are the people who are more likely to be inconsiderate on the roads. Rarely do you see regular riders on non-premium bikes intentionally flouting road rules or acting like they own the streets.
There is nothing wrong with being in a bike enthusiast club. It is a very healthy habit after all. However, if you fall into this category, there are certain things you can do to be safe and not be a hazard on the roads. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it needs to be repeated until we learn to do it instinctively.
One of the most important things you must be aware of are the laws of the land. In this case, of course the land I am referring to is, of course, the road. I cannot tell you exactly what they are because they differ from country to country, and even city to city. The good news is that if you are a lycra-clad rider, you are already following some of the laws – such as wearing a helmet and having lights on when riding during non-daylight hours.
However, the reality is that you might be flouting some other laws, especially if you are riding in a pack. Some areas have laws requiring riders to ride no more than two abreast. It is no secret that some cycling clubs seem to intentionally avoid this. I mean, if there are 30 to 60 people riding at the same time, riding only two abreast makes the snake really long. But rules are rules, so follow them.
Another pet peeve that drivers have are riders that choose to ride on the road when there is a clear bike path just beside it. Although it is true that not every road has bike paths (unless you’re in the Netherlands, supposedly), you should always ride on them whenever it is an option. There is a reason why the town council put it there. It is meant to be a safe space and reduce hazards. Another reason might be that that spot or road has had a history of accidents, so it is in your best interest to use them.
The next thing I wish to mention is not obeying traffic lights. I recall this one time I was walking across the road legally (ie the green man was flashing), when a bicycle crashed straight into me. Even though the rider did call out to me, he only gave me half a second warning. I was surprised that no harm came to me, as the rider being 1.5-2 times my size and he was riding at full speed. Nevertheless, as far as the law is concerned, it was his fault – totally!
Hogging the lane is another big issue that annoys the hell out of drivers. If you are cycling on the road, you should always keep to the extreme side on the slow lane. This is not only for your safety, but out of consideration to other road users. I’m sure that most drivers would not mind moving a little to get out of your way while overtaking. You can do your part by making it easy – not difficult, for them to overtake you.
The next point I want to make today is one which can be justifiable in some instances, but used way too often, and that is being loud and obnoxious. I know that it is difficult to talk and communicate when you are riding in a pack. However, is it really necessary to have a full conversation with your riding buddy? Even if the wind is strong, you don’t have to raise your voice that much, right? Why don’t you save the conversation for your post-ride breakfast?
Finally, the last point that I wish to make is the issue of snobbery. This is one that gets on my nerve sometimes. Some lycra brigade riders have an elitist superiority complex over fellow bike riders. Whether they admit is or not, they believe that they are better than those of us riding slowly and safely on our mountain bikes and wearing our non-lycra attire. Don’t forget that they are the ones giving all of us a bad name! So show us some respect and stop the biker-on-biker hate.
Ok, rant over. It feels good. Now, just to be clear, this rant was not directed at every single lycra-brigade-eer, but only to those who knowingly or unknowingly flout the law or behave in an inconsiderate manner. If you read this article and realise that you have an issue, don’t feel bad and reproached. Instead, take this as a positive lesson and learn how to be a nice and considerate road user.
You might not be able to get rid of entitled drivers, but you can make the roads a more pleasant place for all. Here at Granite Fitness, we enjoy riding our bikes. We even have entire subsections on bike riding in our books the Lifelong Fitness Blueprint and the Traveller’s Fitness Bible.
Happy cycling. Be safe!
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